Chicago State University declares financial crisis due to state budget mess

By Jodi S. Cohen, Chicago Tribune

Chicago State University declared a financial crisis Thursday, laying the groundwork for a plan that could include major cuts at the South Side public institution.

By claiming financial exigency, the university also is sending a message to Springfield, where a budget impasse since July has meant colleges have gone without state funding for seven months.

Chicago State officials had previously said there would not be enough money to pay employees come March, but new President Thomas Calhoun Jr. on Thursday declined to lay out a “doomsday” scenario. With a notably quiet and somber crowd watching, trustees unanimously approved a motion to declare the school in “a universitywide state of financial exigency,” the term used in academia to declare a financial emergency.

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Under that definition, a university generally has an easier time bypassing contracts to lay off employees, including tenured professors. The American Association of University Professors defines financial exigency as an “imminent financial crisis which threatens the survival of the institution as a whole,” and one that “cannot be alleviated by less drastic means” than firing faculty.

The board also named a committee of administrators who will “decide all employment actions, including layoffs, reductions in compensation, terminations and significant position modifications.”

Officials are looking at other ways to cut expenses, such as closing a building or consolidating classroom spaces to save on utility costs.

The university, with about 4,500 students, plans to find a way to finish the semester. Many faculty and students wore “CSU” pins and wore green — the school color — to show their support of the school.

“We will, as the president said, come through this semester together,” Trustee Nikki Zollar said. “We will stand as one body, we will have graduates, we will be CSU as we always have been. We will stand strong and we do love each of you.”

About 30 percent of the university’s funding — approximately $36 million a year — comes from the state. 

(c) 2016 the Chicago Tribune

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